HNA president’s comments at CodeNext hearing

Heritage Neighborhood Association president Gretchen Flatau presented these comments at the public hearings before the Planning and Zoning and Platting commissions on May 1.

Hello and thank you for this opportunity to address you. My name is Gretchen Flatau and I am president of the Heritage Neighborhood Association. The Heritage Neighborhood, located in central Austin and bordered by 29th Street, 38th Street, Guadalupe, and North Lamar is a diverse, walkable, urban neighborhood.

Heritage is within walking distance of a variety of local businesses including restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and medical offices. The interior of the neighborhood has homes mostly built by the mid 1930s, some from the 1800s.  Many of these homes have been carefully maintained over the decades and many have been recently renovated with new additions and upgrades.

My neighborhood is the kind of great place that Imagine Austin encourages–the existing housing stock in Heritage includes many so-called “missing middle” residences, including duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units, row houses, small apartment buildings, and condominiums. I personally live in a multifamily structure that is home to 16 households where originally 3 houses stood. And it was built under our current code and aligns with the Heritage Neighborhood plan.

While I recognize the need for a new code for Austin, I have been incredibly frustrated with the process. I have done office hours, attended hearings and submitted multiple resolutions from my neighborhood. And even with that level of involvement we are not feeling heard. I would be very surprised if any of the consultants or staff involved have actually stepped foot in my neighborhood.

The opportunity for real input in this process has been limited. The drafts come to us piecemeal, with parts posted at the very last minute with no time to respond to the hundreds of pages. The only deadlines in this process that have remained steadfast are the ones that control public input.

As a neighborhood our main issues are that CodeNEXT encourages too much density in the core of our neighborhood. It doesn’t protect older homes, many of which would be considered “nonconforming”. The Code should encourage affordability but what it does is encourage the demolition of older homes so that more expensive structures can take their place. Like our neighborhood plan, Imagine Austin encourages density on the corridors and that is what we would like to see—not destruction of the homes in the middle of the neighborhood.

CodeNEXT also lowers the parking requirements too much. We already have streets that emergency vehicles can’t navigate. CodeNEXT also doesn’t provide for adequate parking on main streets and in many cases doesn’t provide any handicapped assessible parking.

My neighbors and I want an Austin that is more affordable and diverse. CodeNEXT doesn’t get us there. Please look at our neighborhood plan and how it encourages density in places that make sense. Please read our resolutions on CodeNEXT for our specific suggestions. And please let the people that have made their homes in Heritage for many years stay there and not be pushed out by luxury homes we don’t really need.

Thank you.

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